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Our approach and science capital

With awe-inspiring authentic objects, cutting-edge science stories and hands-on activities, we celebrate and showcase the past, present and future of science and technology.

Our museums are places where people of all ages and backgrounds can explore the wonder of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and where attitudes towards them can be positively influenced.

The Science Museum Group’s strategic ambition is to inspire futures.

We are committed to making a difference and to help build a STEM-literate society that celebrates science, technology and engineering and their impact on our lives—now and in the future.

To enable us to achieve this ambition, we have made ‘growing science capital in individuals and society’ a core priority.

So, what does this mean? And what opportunities does it bring us—and other organisations and people working in informal and formal science learning environments?

A Science Capital approach

Science capital is a measure of your engagement or relationship with science, how much you value it, and whether you feel it is ‘for you’ and connected with your life. It recognises the significance of what you know, how you think, what you do and who you know in shaping your relationship with science. It also helps to shape and frame experiences which are designed to support STEM engagement.

Science engagement is at the heart of what we do, and we are using the concept of science capital to provide us with research-based insight into what influences and shapes people’s engagement with, and attitudes towards, science.

The Science Museum Group worked on the Enterprising Science project in partnership with King’s College London, University College London and BP, using the concept of science capital to understand how people from all backgrounds engage with science and how their engagement might be increased through different formal and informal science-related experiences, such as visiting museums and science centres.

We have put an organisation-wide effort into translating the science capital research-informed good practice into operational realities for the informal learning sector.

For us, this is about looking critically at how we work every day, and how we create an environment that reflects our visitors’ perspectives and life experiences.

By doing that, we hope that we will give more people more chances to recognise that science is something that is useful and valuable in their lives, now and in the future.

Science Capital and informal science learning

People experience and learn science in many different places—at school, at home and in their everyday life. No one place or experience can build a person’s science capital alone, but research into science capital gives us a good practice framework and common language. Any informal science learning experience can use this to maximise the impact of STEM experiences for the widest possible audiences.

We have developed a toolkit and workshops for colleagues internally and across the sector. You can read about our journey and reflections on applying research into our practice in our Transforming Practice blog.

Download a copy of Engaging All Audiences With Science, our science capital and informal science learning booklet.

The Science Museum Group Academy

Science capital and wider science engagement research shapes and informs the training we deliver through the Science Museum Group Academy, where we share creative and practical ideas to empower people to help others to make a personal connection with science.

For further information, email us at smgacademy@sciencemuseum.ac.uk.